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Little Red Rooster: Gear, Tone & Tuning

 

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Little Red Rooster

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Whenever you try to hone in on a certain blues tone it's important to keep your eyes on the end result and not get distracted by the tools used to get there. The old blues guys definitely knew what kind of sound they wanted, but they typically used whatever gear they had to obtain it. So rather than focusing on what particular guitar, pedal or amp to use, try to focus on getting similar results and effects out of whatever gear you have. One of the main things that distinguish different blues tones is that some players like a darker and more muddy tone while some prefer the bright and trebly tone. This song actually features both.

For the lead guitar you want to go for the bright tone and to try to get as much treble as you can without it getting too painful to listen to. Use your bridge pickup and boost the treble on your amp. Once you have a nice and bright tone dialed, add a little bit of reverb. With this tone, you could actually play the parts and get the attitude right, but we're still missing the "dirt". The dirt in the lead tone on this song comes from the overdrive.

If you use a tube amp, you can get your overdrive from turning up the volume of the amp. However this may get too loud, and then you can use an overdrive pedal instead. Some amps have a gain and master volume, and you can get different amounts of overdrive and distortion from adjusting the two. Of course, if you add too much overdrive you're going to lose the attack and the presence in your tone, so it's better to have too little overdrive than too much. So the trick is to find an amount of overdrive that gives you enough "dirt", but where you can still hear each of the individual notes when you strum the open strings.

I'll be using my Telecaster for this part and I'll be running it through a modeled version of a Fender Princeton amp. But remember that you can use any kind of gear for these parts, if you keep the overall sounds in mind.

I'll be using a metal slide, because I like the extra treble I get from it, but you can also use a plastic, glass or ceramic slide. For this song we have to use our slide and fret normally as well, so you have to find a compromise where the strings are high enough off the fretboard for the slide playing and also low enough for the regular fretting. I've done this by putting 13 gauge strings on my guitar instead of the 10's that I normally use. But you can actually hear the slide hitting the frets quite a bit on the recording, so don't worry too much about this.

The slide guitar is in an open A-tuning, which is the same as the classic Delta Blues G-tuning, only up a whole step.

1. Your E and A strings stay where they are.
2. Then you tune your D-string up to E (Use a chromatic Tuner or the 7th fret of the A-string for reference!)
3. The G-string goes up a whole step as well (Use a chromatic Tuner or the 5th fret of the tuned up D-string for reference!)
4. The B-string goes up a whole step as well (Use a chromatic Tuner or the 4th fret of the tuned up G-string for reference!)
5. Your high E-string stays where it is

Now we have the same basic tuning as our open G, but up a whole step. It puts a lot more tension on the strings and has the different key, but other than that it's the same.

The supporting rhythm guitar is in standard tuning, and I'll be using my Gibson 335 for it. For this part I'll be going for the darker and more muddy blues tone that we talked about earlier. This is to ensure that I doesn't distract from or clash with the main lead guitar. I'll be on the neck pickup and I'll be strumming the strings with my thumb. I'm also running this guitar through a modeled version of a Fender Princeton amp, but I have the volume so low that the tone only overdrives a tiny bit.